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Michelle Thomas

Published May 20th, 2005 | by Michelle Thomas

Only Human Review

Classification: 15 Director: Teresa de Pelegri, Dominic Harari Rating: 4/5

Leni Dalinsky (Aguilera) and her fiancé Rafi (Toledo) are standing in a lift. Rafi is about to meet Leni’s family for the first time, and he’s sweating, so he decides to change his shirt. Leni looks at him worriedly, then presses the stop button on the lift, and suggests they make love: ‘we’re too anxious, we need to relax’. Thus we’re introduced to the crazy world of the Dalinskys in Only Human, the best Spanish comedy since… well, maybe the best Spanish comedy, actually, ever.

Leni’s dysfunctional family are delighted to meet Rafi, who they believe is an Israeli Jew. In fact, he is Palestinian, so is puzzled to be greeted in Hebrew by Leni’s younger brother, David (Ramallo), who has embraced orthodox Judaism and taped down all the light switches to prevent any of the family inadvertently working on the Sabbath. Dudu (Max Berliner), the blind grandfather, boasts of killing four Arabs with his old rifle, while mother Gloria (Aleandro) comments sarkily that there will be peace in Israel before her husband gives her an orgasm. Rafi, unable to lie (his ears go red) admits to being Palestinian and Gloria is horrified, but Leni promises to calm her down while Rafi goes to the kitchen to defrost some soup.

Paula (Alba Molinero), Leni’s six year old niece, wanders into the kitchen and Rafi, trying to impress her, pulls funny faces. Paula is distinctly underwhelmed until Rafi clumsily knocks the soup out of the window. Unfortunately the soup, plummeting from the seventh floor, has knocked out a passer-by. Rafi is horrified but is convinced by Leni to call an ambulance and then come back inside – the evening is going badly enough as it is. Little do they know that things will only get worse…

Only Human is simply wonderful. It’s everything that films like Mambo Italiano tried and failed to be. It’s farcical and ridiculous but genuinely moving because in the weird and wonderful characters of the Dalinsky family we recognise something of ourselves; mother Gloria trying to keep the family together; blind Dudu, reliving his glory days by playing knife tricks; Leni, the golden girl, her mother’s favourite; Tania (Botto), the older sister who uses her sexuality to hide the fact that she’s jealous of her siblings; David, desperately trying to establish his identity as a man; Ernesto, the absent father, who may be having an affair; and Rafi, the outsider who only wants to fit in.

The fantastic script is completely naturalistic and the writer/director and husband and wife team, Teresa de Pelegri and Dominic Harari, are clearly writing from their own experience. One of the most impressive things about the film is that it manages to make an absolutely rip-roaringly hilarious comedy out of a potentially tragic and timely story about a cross-cultural love affair while still treating that story seriously, even movingly. The performances are uniformly excellent with the actors seeming to inhabit their characters, right down to little Paula, the six year old who pretends to be pregnant with twins. The family, with all their eccentricities, feel totally real.

Some of the farcical elements go slightly too far – an encounter with a hooker and her pimp being one – but this is easy to forgive amongst so much that is excellent. Highly recommended and perfect counter programming to that other film about absent fathers…

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